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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Energy and climate , October, 2008

In today's edition:
  1. EU scientists team up on clean energy research
  2. Dip in oil and carbon prices to hamper clean tech drive?
  3. EU still missing funds for carbon storage plants
  4. Energy savings 'golden opportunity' for developing world
  5. Major EU cities pledge to fight climate change
  6. Poland proposes 'price band' for CO2
  7. New international agency to promote renewable energies
Erm, yeah..many but short. I promise :) Well, if you don't count my comment which can get extensive at times. I find this edition for very interesting, since there are many news and non-news. But hey, Europe is a busy place!

EU scientists team up on clean energy research

31 October 2008

Ten leading European research institutes have joined forces to expedite the development of new cleaner technologies to steer the EU towards achieving its ambitious energy and climate change agenda.

Launching the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) on 27 October, the institutes committed to using their combined annual R&D budget of more than €1.3 billion to "strengthen, expand and optimise EU energy research capabilities".

The initiative was conceived in close cooperation with the European Commission and is a key part of the EU's Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan), proposed in November 2007 to help the bloc meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020.

The EERA will focus "on the strategic and targeted development of next generations of energy technologies, drawing on results from fundamental research and maturing technologies to the point where it can be embedded in industry driven research". Key research areas promoted include wind, solar energy, second-generation biofuels, smart grids and carbon capture and storage.

It is hoped that the EERA will provide EU leadership in energy by building Europe's research capacity to conduct large, high-risk and high-gain R&D programmes.

The first joint EERA programmes are expected to be launched in 2009. Cooperation will expand and intensify, as other research organisations are welcome to join once the project is properly up and running. source My comment: Ok, the goals of EERA sound little bit more dramatic than they should sound, but it's a great initiative in any case. Although I'm not sure how well the cooperation will go, but hey, the more money, the more money :) And it's a fact that people usually cannot spend all their budgets because they are too low for what they need and too much for what they don't need. That's why I believe this is a good step forward and I'm expecting the results!

Dip in oil and carbon prices to hamper clean tech drive?

29 October 2008

EU CO2 emission allowances are trading at an 18-month low, crude oil prices have dropped 50% since July, and financial markets are in crisis, potentially putting a dampener on investment in clean technologies and renewable energies.

The low carbon and crude oil prices may be an incentive for new EU ETS entrants, who would prefer to pay for emissions permits rather than invest in technologies that reduce emissions. Most analyses indicate that CO2 needs to trade at above €25 (rather than current 14) per tonne at the very least to make efficiency upgrades profitable in the long term.

While oil has become cheaper due to lower global demand following the financial crisis, the collapse of global money markets has also created a shortage of financing for renewables projects, which are often capital intensive, McCrone told EurActiv.

The European Commission has repeatedly used high oil prices as a justification for investing in more costly renewable energy or other low carbon technologies. Ferran Tarradellas, spokesperson for the Commission's energy directorate, suggested the EU executive's views on the matter had not changed since a new outlook projects that global production will decline quicker than global demand.source

My comment: I suggest you read that article in the original, because I kind of shortened it beyong recognition. The key moment is that experts still have faith in renewables wich is nice. With those low prices of oil, it makes sense that people would try to speculate again how good fossil fuels are, but apparantly, this is not the case. And in the end, it doesn't matter for Europe since our problem is gas and prices of gas don't decrease that much and it's not only matter of money, but also of dependence. That's why it really is unlikely that Brussel will back off from the plans for renewables.

EU still missing funds for carbon storage plants

3 November 2008

Commitments to finance carbon capture and storage demonstration plants are not forthcoming, despite progress by EU member states on finalising a legal framework for the geological storage of CO2 captured during power generation.

UK Liberal MEP Chris Davies said during a 30 October conference in Brussels that he was "angry and frustrated" about a lack of willingness on the part of EU governments to pledge funds.

Davies is the European Parliament's rapporteur on a directive for a legal framework governing the geological storage of CO2, part of EU efforts to develop commercially viable carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies that could dramatically reduce CO2 emissions from coal-fired power stations. The MEP has been touring EU capitals during the past two weeks in an effort to drum up support for a plan to finance 12 CCS demonstration plants through the diversion of funds normally reserved for early entrants into the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).

The plan, co-sponsored by an amendment to a Commission proposal to revise the EU ETS by Irish Christian Democrat MEP Avril Doyle, has received the backing of MEPs in Parliament's environment (ENVI) committee (EurActiv 08/10/08).

But while member states are said to agree on defining a legal framework for storing CO2 in geological formations on EU territory, reaction to the MEPs' proposed financing scheme has been lukewarm.

Member states oppose the ways revenues obtained through the EU ETS should be spent, and the mandatory emissions performance standard (EPS) for power station-and their numerical expressions. source

My comment: Yeah, well, we all know that. Although I completely support the idea, I firmly oppose CCS, so I don't find it surprising they cannot get the financing. It's hard to obrain funds for something that isn't even existing and even if it is, it's not on technological level that would matter. And for me, these are simply wasted money on the environment front (though they are very well spent on the scientific one). We should focus on effectiveness and renewables instead.

Energy savings 'golden opportunity' for developing world

29 October 2008

Consumers and businesses in developing countries could save an estimated $600 billion a year by 2020 by investing in more energy-efficient cars, appliances and production methods, according to research by the McKinsey Global Institute.

Developing countries could decrease their annual energy demand growth by more than half over the next 12 years by opting for a range of measures, including energy-efficient cars and appliances, building insulation and lower-energy-consuming lighting and production technologies, according to the reportPdf external , published on 29 October.

This would lower energy consumption by 22% compared with the usual figures, "an abatement equivalent to the entire energy consumption of China today," the researchers found.

Developing countries will be responsible for most of the global increase in energy demand by 2020, according to the International Energy Agency, with their share expected to rise from 51% to 60%.

But investing in energy-saving measures would reduce the need for fuel imports and lower the expense of building new energy-supply infrastructure, the report found.

In fact, an annual investment of $90 billion on energy productivity until 2020 would deliver yearly savings of up to $600 billion to consumers and businesses, according to MGI. Without this efficiency gain, twice that amount would have to be spent on expanding existing supply capacity to meet the growing demand, it says. source

My comment: Right, the only thing that this article is missing is that developping countries rarely have enough money to invest in such sectors and even if they have them, they are more likely to invest them in more business oriented way. Though the article offers a great opportunity of business because what it says is comepletely true-the saved money are earned money, so it's worthy to invest in effectiveness. The point is that most of those countries are on the resource-end, meaning they are paid to be ineffective, dirty and to destroy their nature. If they start considering effectiveness and sustainability, they won't sell themselves so cheaply anymore.

Major EU cities pledge to fight climate change

28 October 2008

Some 130 major European cities yesterday committed to bringing climate change into citizens' hearts and minds by adopting ambitious sustainable public procurement policies. But they stressed that results would only be achieved if central governments gave them more power.

"Cities are best placed to speak with their citizens on global matters such as climate change" and to show how local level changes from waste management to public transport can contribute to facing this global challenge, said EUROCITIES in a statement on 27 October, underlining that over 70% of the European population lives in an urban context.

A declaration on climate changePdf external from the network of local governments of some 130 major cities across 34 European countries "testifies to the commitment of cities" to taking local action on climate change.

The declaration is not binding but provides guidelines for implementing local policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by involving all local actors, better urban planning, transport and mobility, renewable energy and diversified energy production.

Examples of actions proposed include:

  • Adopting ambitious sustainable public procurement policies (see EurActiv dossier on green public procurement);
  • developing innovative partnerships in the fields of research and higher education;
  • limiting urban sprawl and developing compact cities;
  • creating new 'eco-quarters';
  • constructing energy-efficient buildings;
  • developing new forms of mobility, and;
  • developing the production of renewable energy.

source

My comment: Right, we will try to do it, but only if governments do it first. I hear this everyday from our mayor, who is in constant war with the government. The results are that the city and the country bounce the responsibility and do a joined nothing to improve the situation. I may only hope it's not the way it will work troughout Europe, because if this initiative is taken seriously, it could lead to beautiful results.

Poland proposes 'price band' for CO2

7 November 2008

Poland, backed by a number of Eastern European member states, has proposed setting upper and lower limits for CO2 permits within the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).

The biggest burden under the current EU ETS in cutting the emissions would fall on Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Romania, whereas the proposal of the seven would put the burden on countries such as Luxembourg, Spain, Italy and Austria.

On the economic and finance ministers' meeting on 4th October, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk declared that the initiative was supported by the Visegrad and Baltic states, all of which entered the EU in 2004. They gathered in Warsaw on 5 November to discuss opportunities to intensify cooperation on the EU's climate plan, Reuters reported.

According to Reuters, a Polish document circulated to finance ministers called for "some kind of safety mechanism" against "the high probability of significant CO2 price volatility post-2013". A price floor would allow renewable energy companies to continue investing, safe in the knowledge knowing that carbon prices would not collapse. Moreover, a cap would prevent the cost of carbon from rising so high as to render national energy-intensive industries uncompetitive, it was claimed.

In addition to the price floor and ceiling, the Polish energy companies support their government's position that energy-efficiency benchmarking can deliver the same results as full auctioning foreseen by the Commission after 2013, but with only a quarter of the costs.

The government advisor argued that the Polish calculations showed that the ETS would raise costs for Polish industries by 65%, well above the EU average. He decribed the Commission's estimate that only about 15% of the rise in electricity prices would be caused by the impact of the ETS as "completely abstract". source

My comment: As much as I hate Poland and their politics, I have to admit they are right to request a chane in the emissions scheme. It really doesn't account for the change that happened after 1990 and they are major! It's not fair to not consider the huge investment in new, cleaner technologies that those countries made after they escaped from Soviet nonsense (and yeah, as pro-Russia as I am, I still cannot accept unsustainable development). But, and I have to put that but, coal power plant cannot go on! That's absolute! And I belive only Poland and Hungary count on them so much. Another thing I should add is that when you call for "somewhat safety mechanism" that's precisely what you would get. Don't those countries have experts! This is ridiculous and Poland is behaving like a yound child.

New international agency to promote renewable energies

3 November 2008

Joint efforts to expand worldwide use of renewable energies recently received a boost as countries from all continents team up to support the establishment of an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The agency, an initiative from Germany, Spain and Denmark, is set to be launched in Bonn in January, after 51 countries agreed upon its statute at a conference in Madrid on 23 and 24 October.

IRENA is meant to be the first truly international organisation offering both industrialised and developing countries support and concrete advice to help them reach higher shares of renewable energies on the road to low-carbon economies. It will work closely with other related international organisations and initiatives, only offering its services at the request of member states.

Details of the agency's size remain unclear, but a "lean" structure is foreseen. Signatory countries are invited to submit applications for the location of its headquarters as well as nominations for a director-general.

The agency's mandate encompasses all forms of renewable energy, including bio-energy, solar power and wind energy. source

My comment:Can I be the director-general, pretty please? Well, jokes aside, but I almost get an alergy from "unclear but lean" proposals. I mean, why should everything in the EU starts from chaotic state and develop into whatever it happens to be? Those structure must be planned, not just created! Oh, well, in any case, it sounds promising. Even in this chaotic state.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Fears and speculations over the climate deal

Today:
  • MEPs advance climate vote
  • Global airlines blast EU ETS decision
  • Report: Demand on nature reaching critical proportions
Very important news on the Climate front, that's why I put them here, if anything new arises before I post this, I will put it here. In short, it looks like the battle is not entirely lost. Lol, when EU started that fight on questionable motives, I bet it didn't know it will go that far. Anyway. I applaud any step forward to the adoption of responsibility towards the Climate and Environment. Remember, we're not doing it for the Planet, we're doing it for ourselves, for our lives and those of our kids. We will benefit from it the most. It will cost, but in the long run, it is the right decision.

MEPs advance climate vote

27 October 2008

The Parliament has brought forward the date of a plenary vote on the EU's climate and energy proposals in what is widely seen as a strategic move to avoid being handed a fragile compromise between national governments that leaves MEPs little room for manoeuvre.

On 3 and 4 December 2008, the full Parliament will vote on a package of four proposals, tabled by the Commission on 23 January this year to reduce the EU's CO2 emissions by 2020 while boosting the share of renewable energies to 20% over the same period.

Originally scheduled for the plenary during the third week (15-18) of December, an earlier vote means that EU heads of state and government will need to take the views of the bloc's co-legislators into account when they convene for the next European summit on 11 and 12 December in Brussels. The French EU Presidency remains committed to reaching a deal before the end of 2008.

A plenary vote after the summit would have put the Parliament in a potentially awkward position, since summit deals need to be reached by unanimity rather than by qualified majority voting. And once a unanimous agreement is reached, there may not be much room left for further adjustments by the Parliament, which could unravel the consensus reached between national capitals.

This is especially true with respect to the climate and energy package, with sharp differences between member states evident on several key points (EurActiv 21/10/08). Indeed, most observers expect that a final deal could be tenuous and will be reached in the 'classic' EU style through 'horse trading' and last-minute deals to get reluctant countries on board.

Though details remain elusive, it is also likely that member states will engage in trade-offs between the different elements of the package, with significant 'flexibility' built into the final deal. This means that richer EU countries could, for example, obtain emissions reduction credits by financing emissions reductions in poorer member states.

MEPs are unlikely to oppose flexibility as they have already backed the notion during their votes in the environment (ENVI) committee (EurActiv 08/10/08). But Parliament and Council are far from seeing eye-to-eye on several other aspects of the package. Another issues are the way money from CO2 allowances shouldbe spent and the endangered industries list publishing date.

In advance of the plenary vote, representatives of the Commission, Council and Parliament will participate in tri-partite talks to make progress on the details of the package. source

My comment: It makes sense the Parliament to have a ready opinion before the Summit, obviously. I just wonder what particular weight that decision will have, when we know how the deal will be reached. In any case, I'm very worried over the division of Europe on Climate, led by Poland. I won't go into my usual bashing (though I want to), but my concern is on the division on poor and rich members that we see more and more. I'm afraid that rich countries see less and less reasons to support the poor ones and that's bad and wrong. Poorer countrieshave their value in diversifying both the market and the politics and Europe shouldn't split on anything. We're strong only when we're together.

Global airlines blast EU ETS decision

27 October 2008

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has condemned a decision by EU ministers to ignore the current economic downturn and approve a compromise deal on including aviation activities in the bloc's emission trading scheme (EU ETS).

On Friday (24 October), EU justice ministers rubberstamped a deal, agreed between the Council and Parliament in June (EurActiv 27/06/08), requiring all flights - both within the EU as well as international ones entering or leaving the bloc - to participate in the Union's carbon cap-and-trade scheme from 2012.

The aim is to tackle aviation's small but fast-growing contribution to climate change, helping the Union to achieve its agreed long-term target of slashing total CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020.

But the ministers' decision to approve the new law without discussion despite the sudden economic downturn triggered by the financial crisis was harshly criticised by international airlines.

European airline traffic has been facing its first negative growth attributable to economic factors since the 1980s, according to the Association of European Airlines (AEA), which explains that this downward trend places "a massive burden on the industry's profitability".

According to AEA Secretary General Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, these figures are unlikely to improve in the near future as the economic slowdown kicks in amid inflation driven by high fuel prices and a steep decline in business and consumer confidence. "The time could not be worse to be hastily finalising, without any impact assessment, Emissions Trading Scheme".

The growing threat of recession does appear to be giving new weight to such concerns, with a number of countries calling for industry exemptions to planned EU climate rules (EurActiv 26/09/08). Namely, the automotive industry could face less stringent CO2 legislation as France and Germany push to defend their ailing home industries and the millions of jobs that go with them (EurActiv 01/10/08).

Green groups and EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas nevertheless insist that the economic slowdown should not be used as an excuse to stall the EU's climate efforts. source

My comment: I agree with Mr. Dimas- you can use the financial crisis as an excuse as much as you want, but in reality, it's just a disguise for your fear to take action. I'm completely sure that the Climate deal won't affect the industry AT ALL! Least of all, because it will come into action until 2012 and until then, the crisis is supposed to be over. And if it's not, it won't matter anyway. It's ridiculous to try to avoid measures always complaining that it will damage the customers. That's simply not true! It's even not true for the automobile industry-as we see from the problems of General Motors, it has nothing to do with Climate-only with the crisis and the utter failure of the market to provide real value for the real products.

Report: Demand on nature reaching critical proportions

29 October 2008

Growing populations are putting so much pressure on the Earth's natural resources that two planets will be required by early 2030s if we are to maintain our current lifestyles, according to figures released today (29 October).

The biannual Living Planet ReportPdf external by the Global Footprint Network, WWF and the Zoological Society of London reveals that the timetable for reaching the 'two-planet threshold' has been cut by 20 years since the previous figures.

Looking at the changes taking place in the planet's ecosystems and in human consumption patterns, the report finds that global biodiversity has declined by 30% over the past 35 years and is continuing to do so despite some improvement in temperate areas.

Moreover, the ecological footprint analysis, which represents the extent of human demand on the Earth's ecosystems, shows that humankind is now using resources at a rate of 30% above the planet's capacity to regenerate them. The concrete consequences of the growing overshoot, such as deforestation, water shortages and climate change, can already be felt, it notes.

Considering the uneven distribution of natural resources, the findings suggest that most people now live in nations which are ecological debtors, covering their excess demand by importing resources from other countries. In the EU, the total ecological footprint is twice the size of the region's biocapacity, with the UK and Spain, for example, running an ecological deficit greater than 150%.

Nevertheless, the report suggests a variety of options to reverse the situation. While technological development will continue to provide sustainable solutions, much of what needs to be done is already known, it argues. For example, emerging economies can be supported via technology transfers. Urban planning can also foster more desirable lifestyles, while empowering women and promoting education and family planning can help manage population growth.

The success of such strategies is nevertheless conditional to managing resources "on nature's terms and on nature's scale," the report concludes, calling for global cooperation between governments, civil society and the private sector to ensure that decisions in different sectors and across borders are taken with appropriate attention paid to broader ecological consequences.source

My comment: I have few comments in different directions. Obviously we're taking much from our dear Planet and that is a fact. I just want to argue that I don't think we're taking too much. Yes, some regions are dramatically endangered and many are even devastated. But what is damaged can be repaired at that point. I think people never put enough emphasis on the real problem with Planet Change-we're not "killing" her. We'll have to be much more naughty to do so. We're killing our natural habitat, as well as that of many other species-something that we're not authorised to do. And anyway, but killing our habitat, we'll put ourselves in a very nasty position. As long as we don't kill off everything, the planet will heal herself with time, the problem is that her time and our time are very different in scale. And while 5000 years for her are just nothing, for us, it's a whole civilization. And that is the problem.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Climate in Europe in October 2,2008

In today's edition:
  • EU announces next eco-design product priorities
  • EU clinches deal on promoting clean road transport
  • Divided EU wants poor countries to join climate pledge
  • Battery chargers switch to low energy consumption mode
Finally we see some actions toward the goal of green Europe. For once, we see some totally good news. Yeah, there probably could be more but even this way, it's nice. Enjoy!

EU announces next eco-design product priorities

24 October 2008

The European Commission has unveiled a list of ten priority energy-using product groups for which it wants energy-efficiency standards to be established in the next three years.

According to the Commission's plans, adopted on 21 October, the product groups under investigation will be included in the EU's 2005 Eco-design Directive, which defines binding minimum standards for energy performance. The final list includes such product groups as air-conditioning and ventilating systems as well as food preparation and refrigeration equipment.

This is the second batch of product groups to be selected. A first instalment of 19, including heating equipment, lighting, domestic appliances and electric motors, was selected for energy-efficiency standards during the transitional phase following the directive's adoption in July 2005. Eco-design standards are expected to be finalised for five of these by 2009.

The candidates for the list were chosen on the basis of their primary energy consumption in order to select the products that would make the most significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Volume of sales and trade in the EU as well as the environmental impact and potential for energy savings were also important considerations.

The EU executive also works on the assumption that no excessive costs will accrue from improving the environmental impact of these product groups, but that no progress can be expected on the market unless either mandatory or voluntary requirements are introduced.

In the meantime, the Commission is calling on industries that manufacture energy-using products to develop self-imposed measures, which are given priority in regulation under the Eco-design Directive if they are deemed to be more efficient.source

My comment:Ok...It's not the first, nor the last time, I'm gonna say it-energy efficience is ESSENTIAL!!! It's actually the easiest way to decrease carbon emissions as well as heat polution and make appliances more economical. Eh, ok, I said it again. Whatever, I'm glad they are working on the issue. I'll say more when I see the final list.

EU clinches deal on promoting clean road transport

23 October 2008

The European Parliament has endorsed a Commission proposal to make public authorities use 'green' criteria, including energy consumption and CO2 and pollutant emissions, when procuring vehicles for public transport fleets.

The proposed directive, which aims to facilitate market-wide introduction of clean and efficient vehicles, received overwhelming support in the vote on 22 October. The directive will require all public and private authorities which contract for public transport to consider the environmental impact of the vehicles they purchase in addition to their price. The operational lifetime costs will be monetised and calculated according to a uniform methodology, which should provide for transparent comparison.

MEPs decided to make the criteria mandatory to all member states but offered them some flexibility as to the details of implementation.

Nevertheless, the vote strengthens the Commission's original proposals, advancing implementation by two years to 2010. MEPs also obtained an increase in the costs related to CO2 emissions, which are to be factored in at a price of at least €30 per tonne, while the EU executive proposed €20 per tonne (EurActiv 20/12/07).

The Commission expects that the high visibility of public procurement will ensure that the directive will have an influence "well beyond its immediate scope". It hopes that business and the private sector will follow by investing in the procurement and development of environmentally-friendly vehicles. The resulting reduction in prices should then bring energy-efficiency gains and a reduction in CO2 and pollutant emissions.

However, the industry has expressed concerns about green procurement measures driving up the purchase, maintenance and operating costs of the whole system. Indeed, the Commission has estimated that including lifetime costs for fuel and pollutant emissions would increase the overall price of a normal bus from around €150,000 to €594,030. It insists that the gap will be made up by improved fuel efficiency. source

My comment: I like this! Seriously, it's too easy to get overwhelmed by excuses and apologies. As for the additional costs-first, I can't believe a bus can cost that much. It's unbelievable, what's so expensive in it? It's like a private plane. Or something like this. Anyway, I don't believe in that additional cost. Sure, there will be some cost in the beginning, but with time, producers will simply find a way to produce cheaper buses. This is the market-way, people claim it works, so I'll trust it this way.

Divided EU wants poor countries to join climate pledge

21 October 2008

EU environment ministers want advanced developing states like China and India to "contribute adequately" to emissions reductions as part of a global climate change agreement next year. Meanwhile, a deal on the EU's own climate and energy package remains elusive following opposition from Italy.

In addition to comparable CO2 reduction commitments by developed states like the US, rapidly developing countries "would have to reduce their emissions by 15 to 30% below business as usual" by 2020 in order for the EU to sign up to a global emissions reductions regime in Copenhagen in December 2009, according to conclusionsPdf external adopted by EU environment ministers yesterday (20 October) in Luxembourg.

Such mitigation efforts by rapidly growing developing states, notably China, would produce significant "co-benefits in terms of reduced air pollution, protection of biodiversity and energy security," and emissions reduction credits obtained through afforestation or anti-deforestation efforts could provide a "major contribution" to reaching the targets, the conclusions state.

Least-developed states could be exempt from any constraints on emissions, while obligations on more advanced developing countries could be met through a variety of mechanisms, including sectoral industry agreements, according to the text.

The conclusions set the stage for discussions during the next major UN climate meeting, scheduled for 1 to 12 December in Poznan, Poland. The talks could become acrimonious, since rapidly developing countries like China, India and Brazil are likely to resist any calls for significant and binding emissions reductions on the grounds that developed states have not only got more financing and technological capacity to cut CO2 emissions, but also assume historical responsibility for the lion's share of existing greenhouse gas emissions.

EU states, meanhwile, have dug their heels in on several divisive points of the climate and energy package, and environment ministers failed to produce any major breakthrough during their talks in Luxembourg.

The UK and the Netherlands, however, are said to support the plans, and Davies is currently touring EU capitals to drum up support for the financing scheme, according to a source close to the file. source

My comment: Hehe, I want to see that happening-China will never sign this. But it sounds good, all right. For me, the most obvious decision is to sign the deal with everyone who wishes to participate and then put severe green taxes on products from not-participating countries. This way there won't be a carbon leakage and countries would be free to chose their destiny.

Battery chargers switch to low energy consumption mode

20 October 2008

Power chargers for a range of devices including mobile phones and laptop computers will have to meet stricter energy saving requirements following the adoption of EU-wide standards on Friday (17 October).

EU member states approved a proposal to improve the energy performance of external power supplies (EPS) that converts power for household and office products such as mobile and cordless phones, notebook computers and modems.

The adoption of the new rules was hailed by EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, who said the measure would "drastically improve the energy performance of external power supplies, which everybody is using together with many household and office products".

The Commission predicts that the proposal will reduce electricity losses related to external power supplies by 30% by 2020, the "equivalent of Lithuania's yearly electricity consumption".

"It is a concrete contribution to reaching the EU's energy efficiency and climate protection targets, while saving citizens' money," Piebalgs said.

Furthermore, the EU executive believes the measure may indirectly lead to energy savings in other parts of the world, as chargers are sold and used worldwide.

The regulation will now be scrutinised by the European Parliament, and is scheduled for formal adoption in early 2009.

The decision was adopted at a meeting of the Eco-design Regulatory Committee, which was created to adopt implementation measures following the adoption of the Eco-design directive in April 2005.

It follows a recent decision by EU ministers to ban conventional light bulbs by 2010 (EurActiv 14/10/08) and another to increase electricity performance of lighting equipment and television 'set-top' boxes (EurActiv 29/09/08).

Further eco-design measures for other product groups are expected in the coming months. source

My comment:Lol, the last part sounds more like a threat than something else. Anyway, me likes. I said already I hate the thing with the light bulbs, but this one is good. Efficience, people!Yay!


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Europe and science, 10, 2008-the return of the GMOs

In today's edition:
  1. Report: EU trade deals 'threaten' wildlife
  2. France hopes to break GMO deadlock by December
  3. EU food safety watchdog backs piecemeal approach to nanotech risk assessment
  4. EU business R&D funding growth higher than in US
Please, read the 2d article. I can't but be amazed by the position of France. The worst is that I don't think somebody payd them to defend GMOs, I think they really feel a duty to apply WTO rules. I can't but hate their weakness. And when someone puts WTO before national wellbeing, I get very very angry.

Report: EU trade deals 'threaten' wildlife

21 October 2008

The much-hyped trade and development agreements currently under negotiation between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries could put forests and the livelihoods of communities dependent on them at serious risk, argues a new report by Friends of the Earth.

The NGO warns that the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) designed by former EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson would impose an economic model on developing countries based on the export of raw materials that could seriously devastate their forests and wildlife.

One of the most controversial elements of the agreements highlighted in the report is an obligation for developing country signatories to lift rules limiting the export of logs and other raw materials. This already seems to be happening in Côte d'Ivoire and Cameroon, which have initialled interim EPAs, according to the report. In addition, a requirement to liberalise investment in the forestry and agricultural sectors would give European corporations improved access to ACP natural resources, potentially leading to deforestation and the expulsion of small farm owners in favour of more export-oriented agriculture.

Although the EU has acknowledged the adverse environmental effects of trade liberalisation in previous Sustainability Impact Assessments (SIA), any mention of the impact on forests is conspicuously absent from SIAs of EPAs, Friends of the Earth points out. The bloc is overlooking "some very serious environmental and social concerns" by prioritising access to natural resources in order to safeguard European competitiveness and is sacrificing its commitment to sustainable development in the process, it states.

The NGO urges the EU to seriously rethink its trade strategy towards the developing world after new Trade Commissioner Baroness Ashton takes over (EurActiv 21/10/08). It believes that now is the right moment to act, as the passing of the 2007 deadline for the EPA negotiations and reluctance to sign off the ACP with little to gain mean that the political pressure to continue has diminished.

The EU says it wants to put an end to global forest cover loss by 2030, with a 50% reduction in tropical forest destruction by 2020. Last week, it proposed to set up a new global fund, known as the Global Forest Carbon Mechanism (GFCM), which could provide developing countries the incentives necessary to undertake actions against deforestation (EurActiv 20/10/08). Deforestation accounts for 20% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The EU chose to negotiate EPAs which guarantee trade reciprocity as it became clear that preferential arrangements with the ACP were no longer feasible following the expiry of the legal WTO waiver on 1 January 2008. source

My comment: I agree it's very very suspicious to not mention the forests problem. Especially after the latest news on GFSM (see above). It looks like just the next try to abuse undeveloped countries.

France hopes to break GMO deadlock by December

21 October 2008

EU envrionment ministers continued to disagree on whether member states should be allowed to establish GMO-free zones for sensitive areas, although they did concur on the need for better long-term environmental risk assessment of GMOs.

After the Council's inability to either approve or reject GMOs for over a decade, the European Commission is now free to authorise them based on a special regulatory procedureexternal .

But both the procedure and the role of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have been targets for criticism (see EurActiv 05/12/05 and 10/03/06), and the Commission has decided to introduce practical changes to EFSA's GMO-approval process (EurActiv 12/04/06).

Several member states have also repeatedly invoked an EU safeguard clause enabling them to suspend the marketing or growth on their territory of GM crops that have EU-wide authorisation. But the EU executive has never substantiated their applications and has always ordered them to lift the national bans.

Following a number of informal discussions earlier this summer, the EU-27 environment ministers debated the bloc's GMO authorisation procedure in a Council meeting on 20 October.

But member states clashed on the issues of protecting sensitive and protected territories and establishing GMO-free zones. Some delegations underlined that the current legislative framework already allows for such protection measures if there is scientific evidence of risk.

Others would like to retain control of their national territories and see the subsidiarity principle better respected in this regard, allowing them to establish GMO-free zones for sensitive eco- and agro-systems.

According to the French Presidency, the ministers agreed on the need for better long-term environmental risk assessment. Several delegations also said the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) guiding principles should be revised. Its safety assessments would always take account of the latest research findings as scientific knowledge evolves.

As for including socio-economic considerations in the GMO authorisation process (such as cost-benefit analysis of the possible consequences of GMO seeds entry into the overall agricultural system), ministers described this as both an "important" and a "complex" issue. They underlined that if such criteria were to be considered, they would need to respect EU's obligations vis-à-vis the World Trade Organisation. Furthermore, some member states underlined that such measures would never replace scientific evaluation as the main authorisation criteria.

The ministers also underlined that there was no exact definition of socio-economic criteria linked to GMOs. Therefore, an EU-level methodology framework could be elaborated to identify and evaluate such criteria.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace argues that member states should be allowed to establish GMO-free areas and implement measures to avoid seed contamination. It argues that the EU's current authorisation process is "fundamentally flawed since it ignores the long-term effects of GMOs, evidence on their biodiversity impacts, diverging scientific opinions and concerns from EU member states".

Therefore, the NGO calls on environment ministers to ensure that EU legal requirements on GMOs are respected and that "environmental risk assessments are carried out by independent bodies with the necessary scientific expertise". source

My comment: Ok, I have one thing to comment on the Greenpeace position. It leaves the impression that we know the long-term effects of GMOs, while we actually don't. What we know is that they DO affect biodiversity in a very negative way. But on humans-we're far from knowing what exactly is going on.

I'm against approving the GMO they way they are now, but let's be fair and rational. They should be banned not because of some fictional damage, but because of their actual damage and effect on people, also the lack of proper understanding of the way genes combine in human cells. I just posted a very nice article on viruses, in To The Future with Love, and it's very visible that genetics isn't so separable-or not to the extent we would like to think it is. And if viruses do take genes from their hosts and mix them up and then transplant them to new hosts, I think it's CRUCIAL for us not to mess with the system until we understand it properly. Because those crops are different and they really need attention and research. For me, they should stay in research phase for at least 10 more years.

EU food safety watchdog backs piecemeal approach to nanotech risk assessment

20 October 2008

Existing toxicity testing approaches can be used for case-by-case risk assessment of nanomaterials in food, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which says there is limited data available on oral exposure to nanoparticles.

The EFSA scientific committee's draft opinionPdf external on whether existing risk assessment approaches can be appropriately applied to nanotechnologies in the food sector concluded that current toxicity testing approaches used for conventional materials are "a suitable starting point for case-by-case risk assessment of ENMs [engineered nanomaterials]."

However, the opinion published for public consultation on 14 October notes that the available data on oral exposure to specific ENMs and any consequent toxicity is extremely limited and "possible risks arise" as a result of their particular characteristics. Indeed, their small size increases their ability to move around in the body in ways that other substances do not and their high surface area increases their reactivity, notes EFSA.

The authority thus recommends that whenever risk assessment guidance documents in the food and feed area are reviewed "nanotechnology aspects shall be considered". Such EU legislative review is currently underway on food additives. Another recommendation calls for further research to address current uncertainties to strengthen the evidence base for risk assessments.

The opinion, published for public consultation on 14 October, is not a risk assessment of nanotechnologies as such or of their potential application, but rather a "generic" view of their use.

Tentative applications of this new technology by the food and feed sector include improved food packaging, traceability and monitoring of quality, modification of taste and fat content and enhanced nutrient absorption.

The draft opinion was commissioned by the European Commission, whose regulatory review on nanotech earlier this year concluded that the current EU legislative framework covers the potential health, safety and environmental risks of nanomaterials "in principle", but that changes in legislation may become necessary as scientific knowledge on the issue grows.

The public consultationexternal on the opinion is open until 1 December 2008. source

My comment: Yeah, very firm position, right :) Whatever, this is a lost cause.

EU business R&D funding growth higher than in US

16 October 2008

Statistics show that corporate investment in research and development (R&D) has grown in the EU for the third year running, surpassing the growth rate for private sector funding in the United States.

The EU 2008 Industrial R&D Investment ScoreboardPdf external , published on 15 October, shows that the rate of EU business R&D investment growth increased by 8.8%, up from last year's figure of 7.4%. At the same time, the rate of investment growth for US companies dropped sharply from 13.3% to 8.6%.

"EU companies are almost closing the gap in R&D growth rates compared to all non-EU companies," the Commission said in a statement.

"In particular, companies in the energy field are rapidly increasing their R&D investments, responding to the need to make more efficient use of limited resources," said Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik.

However, the commissioner deplored that the total share of the bloc's corporate R&D "remains at 1% of GDP [nearly 2% in the US], amidst signs that EU companies are making an increasing share of their R&D investments outside Europe". According to him, increased efforts are needed to build a single European research market to attract more business R&D and reach the Lisbon objectives.

Indeed, the EU is aiming to spend 3% of its GDP on research and development activities, with 2% coming from the private sector.

The scoreboard comprises the world's top 1,000 EU basedPdf external R&D investors and the top 1,000 non-EU basedPdf external companies. The US-based companies Microsoft, General Motors and Pfizer are the world's top three investors.

In the EU-only ranking, Nokia, Volkswagen and Daimler occupy the top positions. They also made the world top-ten, in fifth, ninth and tenth position respectively.

Regarding sectoral trends in business investment, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, technology hardware and equipment, and automobiles and parts account for more than half of the world's R&D.

Meanwhile, the oil and gas production sector showed the highest one-year growth rate, at 22.9%. source

My comment: Funny, they invest more, but they invest outside Europe. Very productive investment! I won't comment here, since I'm very disappointed by the R&D politics of EU. It simply sucks!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Europe and the business, 10, 2008

In today's edition:
  1. EU leaders back support for car industry
  2. SMEs call on EU leaders to guarantee their deposits
  3. Study: Europeans 'becoming more mobile'
This is going to be commentless post, because it covers things I find well, not so crucial to me (0r in the case of the 1st article, kind of infuriating).
But they are important for the over all progress of Europe, that's why they are here and they are very short so I urge you to read it. Just for your information and mine.
And notice the 3d article, how mobility affects women. Very very upsetting information.

EU leaders back support for car industry

17 October 2008

Meeting in Brussels on 15-16 October, the 27 European leaders gave their support to a France-inspired plan to support Europe's ailing automobile industry and instructed the Commission to come up with proposals to support all European industries before the year's end.

Competing with the US

The idea has been burgeoning in Europe since the US last month announced the adoption of a $25 billion package of low-cost loans to help Detroit-based carmakers General Motors, Ford and Chrysler to finance plant modernisation.

European carmakers had immediately insisted that a similar scheme be set up in Europe, a call that appears not to have fallen on deaf ears.

Indeed, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who currently chairs the European Council, told journalists after the summit that EU leaders had agreed to ask the Commission to look into the possibility and that, based on this, France would put forward initiatives before the end of the year.

It is unclear as yet as to what form the measures will take. European car manufacturers are asking for a low-interest loans package of €40 billion, combined with incentives to scrap vehicles over eight years old so as to accelerate fleet renewal.

State aid all around for industry?

Speaking at the Paris auto show last week, Sarkozy had already expressed openness towards the idea of loosening EU state aid rules to allow governments to better support car manufacturers – and other industries – in undertaking the technological shift to a low-carbon economy.

But Commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger told EurActiv that state aid would be "one aspect and by no means the main aspect" of the support package, which would go beyond the car sector and cover other European industries too.

Indeed, according to the summit conclusions, the European Council wants to "decide in December 2008 on appropriate responses to the challenge of applying [the EU's climate and energy] package in a rigorously established cost-effective manner to all sectors of the European economy and all member states, having regard to each member state's specific situation.”

Energy-intensive industries in Europe have been warning for months that EU plans to tighten its carbon 'belt' will put European factories out of business as companies are forced to evacuate their operations and jobs – as well as their emissions – to third countries with cheaper labour and less restrictive environmental legislation.

The current economic deterioration caused by the financial crisis and the threat of recession has given new weight to such concerns.

"If we managed to bring a coordinated response to the financial crisis in Europe, shouldn't we also bring a coordinated response to the economic crisis in Europe?," asked Sarkozy.

But it remains to be seen whether his proposals will gather support from traditionally more liberal-minded countries, such as the UK and the Netherlands. source

SMEs call on EU leaders to guarantee their deposits

15 October 2008

Small businesses are urging European leaders to include small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the financial rescue plan to be debated at their summit today (15 October), asking for additional loans and similar deposit guarantees to those governments have promised to private households.

Due to the current financial crisis, SMEs are finding it increasingly difficult to finance "not only riskier investments but also their basic day-to-day operations," said Georg Toifl, president of UEAPME, the organisation representing European SMEs, ahead of today's EU summit (15 October).

Key measures to ease the pressure would include more flexible handling of the European Investment Bank's (EIB) budget for SMEs as well as the provision of sufficient liquidity by the European Central Bank (ECB), Toifl said.

In this context, he welcomed the action plans drafted by the G4 (Europe's four largest economies), the ECB and the Eurogroup, and was particularly supportive of the EIB's pledge to increase loans for small businesses to €7.5 billion per year.

"Keeping capital flowing" is key to SMEs' survival, the Commission vice president in charge of enterprise, Günter Verheugen, said at an event in the European Parliament yesterday (14 October). He defended the Commission's bail-out measures to national banks, which he described as "the central nervous system" of the economy.

A majority of businesses have already postponed or have even been forced to cancel their investment plans due to the "gloomy" financial outlook, which is likely to worsen in 2009, Verheugen warned.

Amid such an environment, SMEs not only stressed the need for ongoing access to finance, but also to secure existing capital. Toifl thus called upon EU leaders to apply guarantees for deposits of up to €50,000 not only to private households, but also to SMEs (EurActiv 08/10/08). source

Study: Europeans 'becoming more mobile'

20 October 2008

The number of Europeans commuting long hours to work or even working abroad has risen in recent years, according to a study presented on Friday (17 October). For some, being mobile even appears to be the only way of avoiding unemployment and social decline.

Almost one in two working Europeans has experience of job-related mobility. But it would mostly seem that this is a result of necessity, as the majority (53%) are reluctant to become mobile or are only willing to do so within very strict limits. The results come from the first representative study on job mobility presented by the Green MEP Sepp Kusstatscher. For this study, the researchers interviewed 7,220 people aged 25 to 54 in Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and Switzerland.

Among those EU citizens that are mobile, 41% are long-distance commuters and spend at least two hours each day on their way to and back from work, according to the report. Another 29% spend at least 60 nights a year away from home due to business trips, such as weekend commuters or seasonal workers.

Only a minority (14%) actually moved for their job and even less (4%) took a job in a EU member state outside their home country. However, figures are considerably higher than prior to the accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, when only around 1.5% of EU citizens worked and lived abroad.

Businesses struggling with a lack of high-skilled labour have repeatedly called on EU governments to encourage more mobility, but some member states, including Germany and Austria, still restrict the free movement of labour from countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 (EurActiv 18/07/08).

Nevertheless, the study appears to signal that high-skilled workers are now largely benefiting from open borders. By contrast, older and less educated people in particular remain strongly opposed even to relocating within their home country, the report shows.

As a general rule, commuting to a distant workplace poses less of problem to many Europeans, the report shows.

But for one in four commuters, mobility is also "the last chance to secure their livelihood," said Professor Anna Giza-Polesczuk, one of the authors of the study.

For women, the need to be mobile poses another constraint. Unlike mobile men, they tend to remain childless and even partnerless, the report argues, calling on politicians and businesses to develop new strategies to encourage mobility and at the same time minimise its "negative consequences".

The report also calls on employers to take on their share of the costs of increased mobility, allowing their workers more flexibility regarding their working hours, by working more from home, for example. source

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Energy unbundling..next time, 11,2008

In today's edition:
  1. Pressure grows on EU to provide Ignalina alternative
  2. Energy ministers clinch deal on liberalisation
  3. EU ‘wrong’ to prioritise energy diversification
  4. Revised EU energy strategy to focus on supply security
  5. EU consumers lament blocked energy markets
  6. Waste-to-energy plans get EU's nod of approval
Eyes to article number 2,3 and 5. They concern the loved energy liberalisation or whatever's left of it. I think we all knew it's not going to happen the way we wanted it, but who knows why we hoped. Well, now you can appreciate the strength and the magnitude of the energy giants. Or since they are mostly state-owned, you can appreciate the commitement of Germany and France to the Union. Nothing new here.
An interesting side story is article #3, which is well a story of the eternal love between Russia and European Unions. It's really heart-breakening. It's sooooo nice. Almost like in a soap-opera-without the sex and the breast implants.

P.S. The title is a reference to a bulgarian movie-the kid says "daddy, promised me to buy my a bycicle-but next time".

Pressure grows on EU to provide Ignalina alternative

13 October 2008

A referendum to extend the use of the Ignalina nuclear power plant to 2012 took place in Lithuania yesterday (12 October) alongside legislative elections which are propelling populist politicians into office who are opposed to closing the Chernobyl-type plant in December 2009.

In a non-binding referendum, the Lithuanians voted to extend the use of the plant, which provides 60% of the country's electricity. Ignalina's supporters say they hope to postpone its closure to 2012, when new capacities will be built, avoiding the reliance of energy imports from Russia.

Low turnout will probably invalidate the referendum. But observers predict a return to power of politicians, favouring a hardline stance towards Brussels on Ignalina and ignoring pre-accession commitments to close it. Although no party won a majority in the 141-member parliament, a coalition of conservative parties is expected to oust the Social Democrats, who have been ruling in different coalitions since 2001.

Ex-president Roland Paksas, a supporter of Ignalina and a hardliner with respect to the EU, is expected to make a comeback in the executive. His Order and Justice party won 14% according to exit polls, second only to the conservative Homeland Union of Andrius Kubilius, with 18%.

Paksas, a former stunt pilot, was elected president in 2003. But he was removed from office by impeachment a year later, accused of ties with the Russian mafia.

Another political figure to make a comeback is Russian-born Victor Uspaskich, also a supporter of Ignalina, who was faced accusations in another graft scandal and had to flee to Russia in 2006. Uspaskich's Labour party is fifth with 10%, exit polls revealed.

Last week, Lithuanian Economy Minister Vytas Navickas said that his country may be forced to extend the use of the nuclear plant. Lithuania is expecting the EU to come up with an action plan by December 2008.

Lithunia has been pushing for a EU-sponsored $3-4 billion joint project with Poland, Estonia and Latvia for providing energy to the country and decreasing its dependence on Russian gas. But the advance has been slow and the country has also been increasingly reluctant to make commitments to reduce CO2 emissions in an ever-more difficult energy situation. source

My comment: It seems like there is a relevant response on closing a nuclear plant after all. I'm not sure I'm sympathising with them, since Bulgaria HAD to close most of our reactors (and will eventually close them down), so if those reactors are dangerous, they should be down and that's it. But see the trend here-just like home, the weirdos get out on the open-like the rightist in Bulgaria and the fans of Russia in Lithuania. I don't think the EU has interest in this process. The EU is supposed to be Union-and that union should be based on common trust and fair trades. Which will mean when you require something from a member-state-you should give back. Hopefully, the EU will see that rather sooner than later.

Energy ministers clinch deal on liberalisation

13 October 2008

European energy ministers managed to overcome a month-long deadlock over the opening of EU gas and electricity markets on Friday (10 October).

While ministers had agreed on the broad outlineword of a deal at the last Energy Council in June, many issues remained unresolved, including disagreements over how to prevent a small number of energy giants from dominating the EU market.

The Commission's original plans had sought to ease the stranglehold of national energy majors by forcing large integrated firms to sell off their transmission assets so as to keep these activities fully separate from energy production (so-called 'ownership unbundling'). But France and Germany successfully led a coalition of countries against the plans, finally obtaining the right for former state monopolies - such as EDF and GDF in France and E.ON and RWE in Germany - to retain ownership of their gas and electricity grids, provided that they are subjected to outside supervision.

But following pressure from countries like the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Portugal and Poland, the deal will forbid energy producers from buying up the transmission businesses of energy companies in European countries where full unbundling has been introduced. This effectively means, for example, that EDF would not be allowed to buy up high-tension electricity lines in the Netherlands.

Ministers also approved the so-called 'Gazprom clause', aimed at limiting the ability of energy companies from outside the bloc - including Russia's state-owned Gazprom - from buying up distribution networks.

But the Baltic States and Poland were disappointed that the clause had been weakened compared to initial plans for a 'reciprocity clause' that prevented companies in third countries like Russia from acquiring European transmission assets unless they grant EU firms the same legal certainty and market-access rights as those enjoyed by foreign firms operating on EU soil. However, Germany, where roughly 40% of gas imports come from Russia's Gazprom, succeeded in pushing through a weaker clause under which only a bilateral political agreement will be required, in a bid not to upset its main provider. In effect, this means member states will be able to negotiate bilateral investment clauses individually.

Final technical arrangements were also cleared up, including the voting system for the new EU Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER), which is to oversee the functioning of energy markets. Germany had originally pushed for bigger countries, with larger energy networks, to have a greater say over the agency's decisions. But under the final deal, all countries will have the same voting weight.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso welcomed the compromise as "good news for consumers and businesses in Europe" and "a crucial step towards the completion of the single market".

The compromise now has to be approved by Parliament, which could prove tricky. In the initial vote on the issue, the House had insisted that ownership unbundling should be the only option for liberalising the EU's electricity sector (EurActiv 19/06/08). source

My comment: Hehe, nice. I most like the Gazprom clause. And how Germany pushed it trough. Since I talk often about energy liberalisation, I only want to say that it's great that after all, energy producers won't be able to buy transmissions in countries with full unbundling (wherever that is), providing a break for the mob, excuse me, energy giants. So let's focus on the good things instead of on the bad. And it really isn't that bad, energy unbundling wasn't meant to be anyway. I wonder how they even came up with it on the first place. True, it would be nice to have it, because it will effectively lead to European Energy Union but if that mean EON and EDF ruling the continent-thanks, but not. We have EON here, it sucks!

EU ‘wrong’ to prioritise energy diversification

15 October 2008

High-level European and Russian officials locked horns over how the EU should deal with the looming global energy crunch at a debate in Brussels yesterday (14 October), with Russian Deputy Head of Mission to the EU Alexander Krestyanov spurning allegations that his country used energy as a political weapon.

Insisting that Moscow was Europe's ally in its search for energy security, Krestyanov said the EU was "wrong" to "reduce the issue of energy security to just the issue of energy supply". Much will also depend on the exploration of new territories for oil and gas and the development of new technologies, which "can only be done through joint efforts," he stressed.

But European Commission Director General for External Relations Eneko Landaburu said the question of energy security had "become crucial following the difficulties encountered nearly two winters ago with energy deliveries from Russia" and following the recent tensions with Georgia.

"There is a realisation by public opinion that we are fragile," he said, adding: "We have a responsibility to try to give some answers to our citizens."

Landaburu continued: "Europe's will is to depend less on Russia for our oil and gas consumption and we therefore have a diversification strategy. This is not a strategy against Russia but a strategy that seeks to not put all our eggs in one basket […] It's not against you," he insisted.

But while Krestyanov said he "understood" the EU's diversification policy, he said Europe would also have to understand Russia's reaction to it. "If the EU is diversifying, Russia also needs to think about diversifying its exports to other regions of the world," he said, explaining that the construction of pipelines was "not cheap" and that the Russia needed to secure its sources of tax revenue.

Nabucco going nowhere?

In particular, the EU should not count too much on its flagship Nabucco pipeline to free itself from Russia's grip, said de Margerie, commenting: "Nabucco is a nice pipe with no gas." The intention was for the gas to come from Iran, "but with an embargo on Iran, there is no gas," he said, adding: "In our industry, you start with the gas and then you build the pipe. I've been saying this now for more than three years but it didn't work. So now I say it a little louder: There is no Nabucco." source

My comment: Lol!!! I mean it. Especially on the last sentence. There is no Nabucco. I wish I had the time to write a serious post on Nabucco because I so love bashing at it. It's fun because Europe should choose between Iran and Russia and it's simply cannot do it! It's amazing how stupid thing politics is. Or ok, how complex. There are more or less synonims in the case. Well, for me, those conversations are more or less useless. It's much better to deal with fact. And the facts are that there is no other source of oil and gas for EU except for Russia and that won't change in the near 5 years like it or not. Maybe after 10, we could have a nice pipe from Iran or from the South pole, but as for now, we don't have it. So, considering this, we can do only two things. Play it smart with Russia (which doesn't mean be nice bitches to Russia, though I first wanted to write that-it means simply know where we stand and what we can offer to Russia so that we can get a fair trade). And two-INVEST IN NEW TECHNOLOGIES LIKE CRAZY! Yep.

Revised EU energy strategy to focus on supply security

20 October 2008

Even if the EU is successful in building a low-carbon economy with a strong portfolio of renewables, dependence on energy imports will remain high and requires "management", according to a draft of the European Commission's second strategic energy review seen by EurActiv.

Greater energy efficiency is given top priority in the review as the "prime means of improving energy security, climate protection and competitiveness all at once".

The Commission has heard a growing chorus of voices call for more rational use of energy, from MEPs (EurActiv 10/10/08) and industry groups alike (EurActiv 24/09/08). France has also made energy efficiency one of the many priorities of its busy EU presidency (EurActiv 09/10/08).

The second chapter of the draft review suggests an increase in the range of energy supply options, whereby "a diversity of energy supplies should enter the market".

60% of electricity generation should be 'low carbon' by 2020, according to the review, which envisages nuclear and renewables taking on an equal share and sees the contribution of natural gas and coal decline.

Oil is still expected to dominate the transport market in 2020, with electric cars making "some headway". But the review refrains from making any more concrete predictions due to a variety of factors impacting on the sector. It also expresses some concern about the lack of the human capital and infrastructure investments required to realise low carbon economy transitions in the transport sector and in power generation and cross-border distribution in particular.

The Commission emphasises that a diversification of energy supply sources should not impact negatively on relations with energy-supplying countries and third-country investors, and that care needs to be taken to address price volatility in global energy markets.

But EU efforts to diversify its energy supply are ruffling feathers in Russia, one of the EU's main suppliers of oil and gas. "Russia also needs to think about diversifying its exports to other regions of the world," Russian Deputy Head of Mission to the EU Alexander Krestyanov said in Brussels on 14 October (EurActiv 15/10/08).

Investment in clean energy technologies has declined in the EU in recent decades compared with the US and rapidly developing states like China. The Commission is aware of the problem, and has made greater investment in technology the third priority of the review.

Structural barriers to innovation are numerous and include commodity pricing of energy, the scale and scope of necessary innovation and existing "suboptimal" infrastructures, says the text.

Brussels is expected to deal with the issue in greater length in an upcoming communication on financing low carbon technologies, expected in November.

In a repeat of recommendations made as part of the chapter on energy supply diversity, the Commission considers a "well-interconnected, well-functioning internal energy market" as the "prime strength which Europe has to reduce its vulnerability to supply shocks".

Meanhwile, trans-European energy infrastructures, such as a troubled interconnector across the Pyrenees, are also facing "major implementation difficulties, mainly because their European interest is not clear at local or implementation level," the text says.

Along with the review, the Commission says it will publish a Green Paper to launch a public debate on how the "limited resources" of the Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E), the main pool of EU funds available for energy infrastructure upgrades, should be spent in the coming years. source

My comment:Ok, this article isn't very thrilling but it fitted good the theme. It just wants to say that your Commission knows where the problems are and this is the first step toward solving then. Eventually.

EU consumers lament blocked energy markets

24 October 2008

A new survey has found that energy consumers are "still in the dark and cold" despite the European Commission's energy market liberalisation agenda, which was supposed to drive down costs and provide more choice for citizens.

"Unfortunately, there is more bad news than good" with respect to the level of choice in the EU's energy markets, according to a new survey of EU consumer organisations conducted by European consumers' organisation BEUC.

Limited options and difficulties in changing suppliers are listed as the main 'bad news' of the survey, presented in Brussels on 23 October. Household consumers also experience complications related to payments and untransparent energy bills, and difficulties arise when billing disputes need to be resolved.

Consumers in Greece and Poland expressed particular dissatisfaction with their energy markets, while feedback from Scandinavian countries was more positive, the survey found.

Some 'mixed' and 'good' news was also revealed, particularly with respect to supply security. "There is a very high degree of security and quality of supply, both for electricity and gas, which means that the vast majority of EU consumers have access to energy and there are only very limited non-notified interruptions of supply," reads the survey's summary.

The Commission has used the concerns of consumers to legitimise a controversial energy liberalisation agenda, with a third 'package' of measures put forward in September 2007 (EurActiv 20/09/07).

EU energy ministers recently gave their first official position on the plans on 10 October, essentially approving the continued co-existence of liberalised and non-liberalised national energy markets (EurActiv 13/10/08). The European Parliament, meanwhile, wants to stick to the Commission's original plans to 'unbundle', or break up, large vertically integrated energy firms that own both the means to generate electricity and the transmission infrastructure necessary to provide power to consumers (EurActiv 19/06/08).

Council and Parliament are expected to lock horns on the issue before any deal can be reached, and it remains unclear whether the package will be adopted before the end of the current Parliament's legislature in March 2009. source

My comment: Yeah, right. We're so very happy, especially with the price of the electricity and the heathing, we're just bouncing up and down from joy. Hey, wait, it's not joy, it's cold, because that's what we do-stay on cold! Idiots.

Waste-to-energy plans get EU's nod of approval

21 October 2008

Environment ministers from the 27 EU countries yesterday (20 October) approved a new framework waste directive that includes provisions to burn waste for energy use as part of a five-step hierarchy prioritising prevention.

"By promoting the use of waste as a secondary resource, the new directive is intended to reduce the landfill of waste as well as potent greenhouse gases arising from such landfill sites," the ministers said in a statementPdf external following the Environment Council on 20 October.

Central to the revised EU approach is the introduction of a strict waste management hierarchy that governments and local authorities must apply when developing waste policy. The agreed five-step hierarchy includes:

  1. Waste prevention (preferred option);
  2. re-use;
  3. recycling;
  4. recovery (including energy recovery), and;
  5. safe disposal (as a last resort).

Specifically, the new directivePdf external now considers "energy-efficient waste incineration" to be a recovery operation; a provision which EU ministers said will reduce consumption of fossil fuels and other natural resources.

BusinessEurope, the European employers' organisation, welcomed the increased clarity over the legal definition of waste but regretted that the EU had shied away from creating a true EU-wide waste market.

But health groups expressed concern about the wider environmental impact of incinerators and said burning more waste would release toxic pollutants in ecosystems and fine particles into the air.

The directive's approval came after several years of tough negotiations between ministers and the European Parliament over a proposal to overhaul the EU's waste policy, originally tabled in 2005.

To reach a compromise, the Parliament had to drop any reference to binding waste prevention targets to be applied at national level (EurActiv 18/06/08). Instead, EU countries will have to adopt waste prevention programmes five years after the directive comes into force, with the Commission subsequently releasing regular reports on progress made.

For the first time, the directive also introduces EU-wide recycling targets. By 2020, all EU countries must recycle 50% of their household waste and 70% of construction and demolition waste.

While they welcomed the targets, environmental groups have criticised them for being too low to make significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from landfills. They also regretted that the targets left aside other categories of waste. source

My comment: Yeah, I don't know about that. I like using all energy sources to the max, but I have doubts on the use of incineration. It requires too high temperature and too good installation to be profitable and if it's not profitable, companies are just going to ignore the safety standards and thus, we're all gonna breath even nicer air.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Progress of Lisbon Strategy, October

In this edition:
  1. Tories 'won't give up' on EU treaty referendum
  2. Parliament to investigate funding of Irish ‘no’ camp
  3. Divisions emerge as Parliament debates Commission’s 2009 priorities
  4. New campaign seeks end to 'impenetrable' Euro-speak
  5. Enlargement will not fall victim to Lisbon Treaty, says Commission
  6. Interview: Czechs to push for closer transatlantic ties at EU helm
Some are fun, others are not. But they are all important so... One, however, stands out from the crowd and this is the second article that talks about the suspicions of the EC that the No-camp in Ireland was sponsored by US army. That's very very interesting and bring up many questions.

Tories 'won't give up' on EU treaty referendum

30 September 2008

William Hague, the UK shadow foreign secretary, pledged to put the EU's Reform Treaty to a public vote if the Conservatives were to come to power, as the Tories continue to lead in opinion polls ahead of a general election which Labour must call before May 2010.

"If the Lisbon Treaty is unratified and on the table at the point we take office then, of course, we would hold a referendum," Hague said on 28 September, speaking ahead of the Tories annual conference. Conservative Party leader David Cameron has pledged to run next year's European elections on a promise to hold a referendum.

The treaty ratification process was formally completed in the UK in July. The text was set to come into force before the European elections in June 2009, but its rejection by the Irish in a public vote has brought this timetable into question (EurActiv 13/06/08).

It seems unlikely that the ruling Labour government would call an election before the treaty ratification process is completed, with recent polls showing the Tories ahead. The Labour government came to power in 1997 and got re-elected in 2001 and 2005. The government is elected for a five-year term, but can decide to set the date of the election at any time within this period. The latest would be May 2010.

Hague refused to rule out the possibility of holding a referendum even if the ratification process were completed across the rest of Europe if a Tory government were to take office. "We haven't made the decision yet," he said. source

My comment: Erm, yeah. I don't quite understand what the problems or the Tories with the Constitution are, but I don't care that much about their opinion anyway. Too bad that EU cares about UK more than me.

Parliament to investigate funding of Irish ‘no’ camp

September 2008

Political group leaders in the European Parliament have asked for “comprehensive information” about alleged irregularities in the financing of the ‘No’ campaign against the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland, amid accusations that it received funding from US agencies.

The Conference of Presidents of political groups, the Parliament’s highest political body, warned on Thursday (25 September) that any irregularities found in the campaign “could lead to sanctions, including of a criminal nature”.

A Parliament spokesperson told EurActiv that it was up to the Irish authorities to decide whether the result of the referendum was still legally valid if the fraud was to be confirmed.

Hans-Gert Poettering, the President of the European Parliament said on Monday (22 September) that serious questions needed to be asked about where the Irish eurosceptic group Libertas got its money from.

Poettering called in particular to elucidate the links that Declan Ganley, one of the campaign’s main sponsor, may have had with the US military.

“A total of €200,000 came from a single donor, who was a key organiser for Libertas and has military procurement contracts with the US government. I ask Dick Roche, the Irish Europe minister, to make sure he carries out a full and thorough investigation,” Poettering said.

The Irish legislation restricts the size of donations to lobbyist groups to €6,348 per year per donor. But Ganley said the €200,000 for Libertas was a loan, not a donation. It is not a secret that Ganley's US company, Rivada Networks, sells communications services to the US military and the US National Guard.

The Greens group had earlier stated that if the allegations proved to be true, “this would clearly show that there are forces in the United States willing to pay people to destabilise a strong and autonomous Europe.”

Declan Ganley refuted all allegations in a statement, published on Libertas’ website. “The approach adopted by this European Parliament President's group is a throw-back to an earlier era in history […] The Irish people made their decision on the Lisbon Treaty. That decision must be respected," Ganley stated. source

My comment: Lol! Now that's FUN! Lovely. Well, it's not a big surprise where the root of evil is, but still. However, we should be very cautious with the external "enemies" that we may find to induce unity. But in the case, USA looks very guilty and probably it's time for another major scandal between USA and EU. I kind of miss them. Nothing better than a nice, heated, non-violent discussion.

Divisions emerge as Parliament debates Commission’s 2009 priorities

25 September 2008

The European Commission’s Work Programme for 2009, to be adopted later this year, was the subject of a heated political discussion in the European Parliament yesterday.

Earlier this year, the European Commission launched a five-point priority action plan for 2009. The priorities are:

  1. Growth and jobs.
  2. Climate change and sustainable Europe.
  3. Making the Common Immigration Policy a reality.
  4. Putting the citizen first by revising the social agenda and delivering policies of direct interest for citizens.
  5. Europe as a world partner.

This was the first time a Parliament plenary debate was afforded the opportunity to provide input into the Commission’s proposed Work Programme. This new measure is intended to “make the process more political,” Commission officials told Euractiv.

The Commission, represented by Vice-president Margot Wallström, reiterated the 5 priorities of its work programme, taking care to place these within the context of many current global uncertainties.

The responses from European Parliament groups varied widely. A number of voices offered broad support to the plan, while others saw it as ineffective and misguided. The polarized spectrum of opinion was perhaps best reflected while debating the Commission’s continuing plans for Europe to take the lead in the global fight against climate change. The European Greens expressed their disappointment at the programme’s energy and climate change package, which they felt did not go far enough, while one member of the Independents group expressed skepticism at the Commission’s scientific data, urging Commissioner Wallström to instigate a “full and open debate” on the subject.

Perhaps as a result of this multiplicity of views, the Parliament did not succeed in achieving a consensus on a resolution to the Commission’s Work Programme.

A proposed joint resolution from the EPP-ED, ALDE and UEN groups was soundly rejected by a 3 to 1 majority later in the day (306 against and 102 in favour, 27 abstentions).

All individual group resolutions were also rejected.

According to Parliament representatives, “among the more controversial issues were the votes on a proposed amendment calling on the Commission to bring forward a raft of proposals for new social legislation as well as an amendment underlining the importance of continuing the accession process with Croatia and Turkey in the expectation that both countries will in due course meet all the criteria for membership.”. source

My comment: Hm, no comment really. A good example why all the disagreements on the world are worth less than 1 agreement. I just disagree that they put Croatia and Turkey on the same leg. They are totally different-Croatia is a part of Europe while Turkey is not. I hate to hear how they connect them more and more firmly when they have nothing to do with each other. It's simply not right.

New campaign seeks end to 'impenetrable' Euro-speak

22 September 2008

Using simpler language would vastly improve the EU's communication, according to the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, which launched an online campaign to make the EU institutions more accessible to citizens last week (15 September).

The 'Simple Languageexternal ' campaign, organised by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the Committee of the Regions (ALDE-CoR), provides a web forum for individuals to "freely post examples of complex sentences or jargon that they have encountered in EU documents," inviting contributors to suggest "a citizen-friendly alternative".

It targets "all who work for and with the European Union, in Brussels and beyond, with the objective of encouraging the use of simple and clear language in all EU documents, official or not".

Boosting citizens' involvement in EU debates is seen as crucial to boosting turnout in next year's elections to the European Parliament. The 'Communicating Europe in PartnershipPdf external ' initiative, launched by Commission Vice President responsible for communication Margot Wallström in October 2007, identified the Internet as a key means of achieving this.

Describing the thinking behind the initiative, ALDE-CoR Group President Flo Clucas, who is also the deputy leader of Liverpool City Council, said "we have seen time and time again that the EU struggles to make itself understood". "We don't help ourselves or our citizens if we express ourselves in obscure language," she added.

Clucas explained that "citizens find the language which emanates from Brussels impenetrable, but so too do many […] officials in national, regional and local authorities". "There is an urgent need to change this and that is why we are launching this campaign".

As an example, the website suggests using phrases such as "discussion between cities and regions" instead of terms like "territorial dialogue". Although it is currently only available in English, the homepage promises that other languages will be made available soon.

To coincide with the launch of the campaign, ALDE-CoR is flying a banner from a footbridge over the busy Rue Belliard in the heart of Brussels's EU quarter from 14-28 September, carrying the message: "What language should the EU speak?"

A number of other websites also seek to bring Brussels affairs closer to citizens. The 'Road to Copenhagen 2009external ' initiative launched last year provides a forum for debate on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol (EurActiv 20/11/07), while in January, the European Policy Centre unveiled an innovative online forumexternal to narrow the "yawning gulf" between the concerns of young professionals and those of the EU institutions (EurActiv 27/02/08).

Moreover, Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva is known for hosting online chats with Europeans to discuss various issues, including toy safety ahead of the 2007 Christmas period, for example (EurActiv 05/12/07). source

My comment: A great idea. I read a project description for an EU grant and well, the language was totally cool. Like "horizontal axis" for a set of priorities. Absolute nonsense. Very very good idea!

Enlargement will not fall victim to Lisbon Treaty, says Commission

19 September 2008

The Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty and its uncertain future should not be used as "scapegoats" to block enlargement, Commissioner Olli Rehn said in a speech yesterday (18 September) which was primarily directed at Germany and France, which have ruled out further expansion without the new Treaty.

Speaking at a conference on the Western Balkans in Prague, Rehn said the Lisbon Treaty "has raised some questions on the future of enlargement" but should not affect further process.

"We need the Lisbon Treaty in order to make the current EU function better. But we cannot take any sabbatical from our work for peace and prosperity that serves the fundamental interest of the EU and its citizens," Rehn pointed out.

The new Reform Treaty was meant to be in place before the next European elections next June, but the Irish no in a referendum in June (EurActiv 13/06/08) has put this date into question. Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker this week was the first EU leader who said he considered it unlikely the treaty would go into effect before 2010.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the EU Presidency, and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel insist that there can be no further enlargement until the new treaty is in place (EurActiv 20/06/08), although their position was immediately contested by countries from Eastern Europe (EurActiv 09/07/08).

For the time being, Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey have official EU candidate status. While membership appears possible within the near future for the first two, Turkey's EU future is far from certain and entry is not foreseen before 2014.

Rehn reiterated the positive outlook for Croatia, saying it was possible to conclude "technical negotiations" before the end of next year, so that the country could join in 2011 or 2012. But there is also a membership perspective for all other countries of the Western Balkans, according to Rehn.

Speaking about Serbia, he echoed Commission President José Manuel Barroso's earlier statement that the country could achieve candidate status next year, adding that for Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia, the primary focus would be on facilitating visa liberalisation.

The Commission will present its annual progress reports on enlargement in early November. source

My comment:Mhm, yeah, it makes sense. Although, I don't see how Macedonia will join when Greece is totally banning its name. I don't mind Macedonia, even if it's somewhat ungrateful to Bulgaria, but still, that is the reality. Greece is banning it for its NATO membership, why it wouldn't for the EU where it has even greater power?

Interview: Czechs to push for closer transatlantic ties at EU helm

12 September 2008

The first EU-US summit to take place with the newly-elected American President will be a major highlight of the Czech EU Presidency which starts in January 2009, says David Král of the Europeum Institute for European Policy in Prague. But he also warns that Prague’s excellent relations with Washington could also further strain the EU's relations with Moscow.

The EU-Russia summit, which also takes place under Czech Presidency, is expected to be very difficult, says David Král, who lectures at the Department of European Studies at Charles University in Prague.

Král recognises that a big EU country such as France is in a much better position to influence Russia and act as a mediator, as shown during the Georgia crisis. The Russian style is to talk to the "big guys" and ignore smaller countries like the Czech Republic, he points out.

As energy relations with Russia will likely remain high on the agenda, Král says the Czech government will also strongly push for negotiations on the Nabucco gas pipeline project to be advanced. The Nabucco project, favoured by the EU, is expected to reduce the bloc's energy dependency on Russia, Král said. But it has been riddled with financing and political problems.

The EU's enlargement to the Western Balkans and relations with its eastern neighbours will be another highlight. "The government is very much pushing for enlargement to the Western Balkans, Croatia is very high on the agenda, but [French President] Sarkozy made it clear there is no way to continue with enlargement without the Lisbon Treaty," Král said. Under the motto 'Europe without frontiers', Prague will also push for the elimination of labour market barriers following the EU's 2004 and 2007 enlargements.

Moving on to institutional issues and the fate of the Lisbon Treaty, which is currently being examined by the Czech Consitutional Court, Král says he believes that the Czech government, led by the Civic Democrats (ODS), will have no choice but to stand behind it. The ODS negotiated the treaty, he points out, and Prime Minister Mirek Toploanek "cannot afford not to stand behind it".

The problem, as he sees it, lies with the upper chamber of Parliament, where ODS senators seem to have adopted a more lukewarm approach to the treaty. The challenge now is for the prime minister to get these senators on his side, Král said. source

My comment: Yeah, one more US-lover on the table. Wich will be kind of cute when Obama gets elected considering all nuances. But whatever, Russia will balance the powers, I'm sure.

 

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